DJ Centrific on 15 years of Intellephunk
By Bobby Kahn
Photo by Dave Eckblad
One would likely have to travel far and wide, and across many different scenes to find someone as universally liked and respected as Steve Seuling, better known to most Twin Cities techno fans simply as Centrific. While Steve has been DJing and throwing parties in the Twin Cities and around the Midwest for over 15 years, he is just as likely to be seen up front "speaker freaking" at someone else's party.
Steve and some friends threw their first "real" party back in the late '90s, using the name Intellephunk. The crew has been active since then, some years more than others, and this is a special year for them as they are celebrating their 15th anniversary of their very first party, thrown in March of 1998.
Gimme Noise connected with Steve via e-mail to discuss Intellephunk, his memories over these past 15 years, and more.
How did Intellephunk get started?
I was working next door to Let It Be Records at Keys Cafe on 10th and Nicollet and spending all of my money there. I had heard Laurent Garnier DJ at an event Woody McBride threw called "Electric Disko" under Roy Wilkins in St. Paul and I had seen Daft Punk and Woody play "live" at Drop Bass Network's "Even Furthur 96" deep in the woods of Wisconsin. My mind was blown, life was changed! It all seemed very DIY -- sort of punk rock style, with bigger pants -- and there were thousands of kids in this community around the Midwest and I thought that was pretty awesome. Back then it seemed like everybody had a crate of records and some decks at home just because they really loved hanging out and playing records with their buddies. These guys might jump on the decks at a house party every now and again but never really aspired to play out or "be a DJ."
You couldn't just go on the internet and listen to a bunch of podcasts or buy the latest releases on Beatport. You had to actually go to the events to hear the music and go to the record store to seek out the tracks. It took a lot of effort just to have this music in your life and that made me think it must really be worth it. I was really inspired by the parties I had been going to, and I wanted to contribute something to the "scene." I convinced my wife at the time that we should throw some parties so we just threw a house party, or invited some people to the woods with some speakers, just small, simple stuff for our friends. Our friends John and Nathan owned a modeling agency and had a loft in the Rockler Fur Building on 4th Street where they threw these funky parties. Eventually I convinced them to let me do a party there so that's where the first Intellephunk event "Inner Stellar Overdrive" happened in March of 1998. The bill was filled mostly by friends, as well as DJ Apollo (my favorite local DJ at the time).
What was the electronic music scene like in the Midwest back then and how has it changed in the past 15 years?
I would say one of the biggest differences would have to be the style in which events are thrown and promoted as well as the venues in which they take place. 15 years ago, most events took place in hockey arenas, community centers, etc, which in many cases had a very stale vibe. The explosion of the mid-'90s rave scene had been the nail in the coffin for throwing parties in warehouses and totally illegal venues. It's hard to blend in with a huge wall of bass vibrating the neighborhood and 1,500 kids in oversized clothes scurrying to and from their cars. Not to mention in the early days nobody knew what these things were, but once you had all the local news shows doing their "investigative reports" on the nightly news the gig was up.
People were just toying with the idea of moving these types of shows into clubs in Minneapolis. However, the 1 a.m. bar close time, and the stale Minneapolis club owners (who were mostly old rock guys who no idea or respect for what it took to do these events) made it a slow transition.
Why hasn't Intellephunk been more active these last few years, and what does the future hold?
Well I've always been all over the place, one year I might throw six events the next I may only throw two. Since around 2004, Dustin Zahn has been my main collaborator with Intellephunk. I think most of the best events Intellephunk ever did have occurred since then, and some of the events I am most proud of have happened in the last couple years so I'm not sure we haven't been active as much as we keep a low profile when we are inactive. Plus there have been other projects like the last 6 summers Dustin and I have been a part of "Communion Sundays" every week so that has taken a lot of our attention.
I have actually been really inspired by just techno in general the last couple months, more so than any time in the last few years. We have started to make some tentative plans for some up coming events but we will just have to wait and see.
What are your favorite memories from Intellephunk events?
Throwing a completely packed $3 party on a snowy Sunday night in November of 2003 at Taboo with Magda and Mathew Dear, before either blew up. Also, all the sweet sound systems we brought out to camp out parties like Even Furthur and Blue Shift; we had a reputation for having the nicest rig in the camp. My 30th birthday party "Every Which Way But Loose" with Magda, Troy Pierce, and Slobodan. Having several hundred people sing me happy birthday before my set was really something I will never forget! Having a huge sound system on the rooftop of Epic night club with Chris Liebing was, well epic, to say the least. [Interviewer's note: this remains as the only legal party I've been to that was shut down by the police before bar close.] Every time we bring Joel Mull here! Joel made some of my all time favorite techno records. I think we have brought him a total of 5 times and every time I am reminded why he is one of my favorite DJs.
What are your favorite memories from the Midwest rave scene in general these past 15 years?
I could list off countless events and sets or parties or whatever that shot me into outer space but there have been two substantial things I have enjoyed watching. First, seeing how everybody around the Minneapolis techno community has evolved and made it through ups and downs over the years. Second, watching the evolution of the Detroit Electronic Music Festival and its effect on American techno. I think it has helped spread the gospel of techno through America, which has helped to create and connect techno outposts all across the country again. I attended every festival from 2001-2010 so I feel like I can see how it changed everything very clearly.
Do you have any advice for an up and coming DJ and event promoter?
Well, for one thing if you have spent the time to learn to DJ or make tunes, I think you should also be starting to find ways to help out in the community. You can throw a small event or ask an established promoter if there is anything you can do to help with their show, even pushing speakers or working the door. Get on the dance floor, too!
Personally the number one reason music has been such an important part of my life is because it brings people together. If you are locked up in your studio your whole life, the chances your music will ever make a difference in some ones life becomes infinitely smaller. This exchange of energy is what makes this whole thing worth doing. Sharing our time here together is so much better than being alienated and bitter. I have a ton of anxiety and social awkwardness but it's not just about me, so I suck it up and do my part and that's better for everybody. I know a ton of great longtime local DJs and producers who have never made an effort to do their part. Currently most of them are sitting on a ton of great music and technical skill and some new kid who is average at best is playing a ton of gigs because he is willing to put himself out there.